Three In 10 Major UK Cities Have No Accessible Homes Plan

A new investigation by the BBC has found that three out of 10 major cities in the UK have no plans to provide more wheelchair accessible homes. Currently, the national guidelines state only that entrance level access at doorways and hallways should be standard for wheelchairs. 

Having an accessible bathroom, with a walk in bath and shower, can make a huge difference to a disabled person, or an elderly person with limited mobility. In many cases it can mean extra years of living independently, or living at home with the aid of a carer, rather than having to go into residential care. 

A downstairs bathroom or wet room is another feature which is beneficial for wheelchair users as it avoids the need to negotiate a platform lift to get upstairs, yet most new homes still don’t take this into consideration, despite the UK’s aging population. 

The same is true of a kitchen with adjusted worktops and appliances, which are accessible from wheelchair height. These are design features which allow a disabled person to take care of their most basic needs which are essential to their health and mental wellbeing, yet planners and developers are still reluctant to include more than the bare minimum. 

Nick Apetroaie, CEO of the accessible housing association Habinteg, told the BBC that the country “desperately needs” more wheelchair-accessible homes. He added: “Without a commitment to building them, we will continue to see a postcode lottery, where people are forced to make do in places that limit their independence and damage their health.” 

The BBC used Freedom of Information requests to establish which local councils took extra steps to ensure that at least certain percentage of new homes were built with accessible bathrooms and kitchens. It found that Coventry, Bradford, and Sheffield have no quotas at all beyond the national guidelines. 

Furthermore, three major cities, Birmingham, Manchester, and Leicester, have no provision in local housing plans for wheelchair accessible homes at the point of purchase.

This is despite the fact that councils do have the authority to insist that housebuilders provide a higher percentage of accessible homes. According to Habinteg, there are 20,000 people on an English local authority waiting lists for a fully accessible wheelchair home, and a further 104,000 people on a waiting list for an adapted home.

Nick Apetroaie said: “Making do in an inaccessible home can have a huge negative impact on a person’s health and wellbeing. It can also restrict them from aspects of life that many of us take for granted, such as having regular work. A disabled person is four times more likely to be in work if their accessible housing needs are met.”

He added: “With only 9% of English homes offering even the most basic accessibility, we need all plans for new homes to include targets for accessible properties, particularly wheelchair accessible homes. It is deeply concerning that so many local planning authorities could not easily tell us the number of people in need of accessible homes in their area.”

The government told the BBC that it had invested £4.8bn since 2010 to provide accessible housing.

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